Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bruins Step Up Defense In Win Over Ducks

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

UCLA stepped up its defensive intensity in the second-half to rally from behind to beat Oregon, 75-65, before a crowd of 11,355 at Pauley Pavilion.

For the first thirty minutes of the contest, the Bruins played lethargically on both ends of the court and allowing the upset-minded Ducks to take the early initiative. When Oregon's Tajuan Porter hit a three-pointer with 4 seconds remaining in the first half, it gave the Ducks a 34-31 going into the locker room.

Many times this season, the Bruins have come out blazing to start the second-half after following behind early, but this time they came out with the same lethargy that plagued them in the first-half with the Ducks extending the lead to as wide as eleven points.

But then UCLA finally regrouped and found its voice in its defense. Applying intense pressure on the ball and aggressively playing the passing lanes, the Bruins began to force turnovers against the Ducks. UCLA went on a quick 6-0 run to cut the lead to just five, which was capped off by a steal and rousing dunk by Russell Westbrook that ignited the Pauley crowd.

The Bruins continued with a 12-5 run to finally catch the Ducks at 54-53 with just under six minutes remaining as Darren Collison stole the ball and got it up court to Westbrook for another crowd pleasing slam. It was UCLA's first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

For the game, the Bruins forced the Ducks into 19 turnovers.

Down the stretch, UCLA scored 10 of its last 12 points from the free throw line to secure the victory and series sweep of the Ducks .

Oregon's Tajuan Porter sparked his team early with hot outside shooting, but as he has done in previous games, his poor decision-making and propensity to take difficult shots cost the Ducks precious possessions in the second half when the team tried to withstand the fierce Bruin rally.

Darren Collison scored a team-high 17 points and Russell Westbrook added 16 points and five assists. Collison and Westbrook combined for seven steals to ignite the second-half Bruin rally.

Although UCLA finished with 50% field goal shooting, often the team struggled scoring from its halfcourt set. Similar to their past two contests, the offense spent too much of the shot clock dribbling or passing the ball on the perimeter, many times being forced to take difficult shots as the clock ran out.

Some of the team's difficulties on offense are attributable to opponents stacking up the paint to take away touches from center Kevin Love and coinciding with the Bruins' recent struggles with their perimeter shooting.

UCLA finished just 2 of 8 on three-pointers.

Junior Josh Shipp scored 10 points but he missed his only three-point shot attempt of the game and extending his drought from outside to 0 for 20 over the past five games. If the Bruins are to go deep into the tourney, they'll need Shipp to find his range soon and become a threat again.

Despite not playing one of his best games, Kevin Love still managed to finish with another double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Love also contributed two length of the court outlet passes leading to easy scores during the Bruins' late rally. He had an uncharacteristically tough night at the line, making just 7 of 12.

The Bruins (24-3, 12-2) will pack their bags next week for a trip to the desert for tough match-ups against Arizona State and Arizona.

(photo credit: AP)



At Feb 23, 2008, 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous DK BRUIN said...

How come no one has mentioned the other handicap the Bruins and all true Bruin fans overcame today. Steve Lavin announcing! I cringe every time that man comes. I don't know what else to say. Thank g-d for Coach Howland! Steve Lavin is the WORST.

At Feb 23, 2008, 11:57:00 AM, Anonymous DK BRUIN said...

How come no one has mentioned the other handicap the Bruins and all true Bruin fans overcame today. Steve Lavin announcing! I cringe every time that man comes WITHIN 100 FEET OF SACRED WOODEN COURT. I don't know what else to say. Thank g-d for Coach Howland! Steve Lavin is the WORST

At Feb 23, 2008, 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous fvelas said...

I was never a big fan of Lavin, not a very good X & Os coach but, give the guy a break. He was very gracious on todays telecast not only singing the praises of Howland but also of Guerrero the guy that canned him. He has been and still is very supportive of the Bruins.

At Feb 23, 2008, 1:19:00 PM, Anonymous geoff said...

is anyone else concerned with shipp's poor shooting? I know that we've been winning (washington aside) without his sweet stroke from deep, but it's going to be hard to win out and go deep into the tournaments if he doesn't come around.
BBR, do you have any inside information as to why shipp has been in such a slump? or why our bruins have been waiting for 5 seconds left in the shot clock to make a play? We have the potential to beat everyone, but once the competition gets fierce, it will be tough if our game isn't where it should be. Thanks again for an excellent recap!

At Feb 23, 2008, 9:12:00 PM, Anonymous DB said...

Like I said in my previous posts Geoff, the Bruins are having some issues in both of their defense and offense. Forget about the huge point wins vs bottom teams, but rather look at how they played vs the top 5 teams in the league.
The Bruins are usually in trouble with athletic and fast players. What teams are smart is to constantly attack the middle and kick out pass against Bruins D since we like to D up far away from rim which opens and spreads the court.
Teams are getting pretty good look at the rim on their shots. Yes I know you would be saying "well we are still winning those games". This is true but it is hard to always rely on turnovers to win the game. A few of the Bruins win relied much on other teams' turnover.
The wins vs USC, Oregon, and Stanford has been pretty close where for most part, IMO the other team played an overall better game but the Bruins escaped by having points off turnovers. This is dangerous against another top team which has multiple solid and low turnovers. Teams like USC matches up extremely well against us. As much as i hate to admit it, USC should have swept us this season. I mean with a 6 man rotation and tons of turnovers and we basically won by about 4 since the rest were foul points late in game.
On offense, we are taking way too much time setting up. Too much dribbling and lacking solid perimeter scoring does this. Bruins spend too much time going side to side on offense instead of going to the rim. Reason for this also is the lack of consistency in playmakers and outside scoring.
A few of the perimeter players like Shipp and Westbrook imo needs to improve on the pop up midrange jumpers.
As is right now, both Kevin love and Mayo is not as NBA ready as Bayless or Beasely. They can use another year for sure.

At Feb 23, 2008, 10:17:00 PM, Anonymous bb said...

@DB i agree with you... our bruins need to get their offense moving more quickly... Florida beat us in the last two tournaments because we didn't have much offense going. there has to be a balance attack on both ends... defense wins games, but you also have to have to play offense as well.
Collison needs to pass the ball more to Love... i think he spends too much dribbling the ball... we can use the Love attack in the center. Westbrook is a beast... he fires up the offense every time he touches the ball... it's so much fun watching him play.

At Feb 24, 2008, 2:04:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

We could have 7 scholarships available next year...when do recruits usually sign?
Mata (graduation)
Aboya (graduates early and yes, he can leave)
Shipp, DC, Love, Westbrook, Prince - they will all enter the draft, without an agent and test the waters...

At Feb 24, 2008, 3:44:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Geoff, see article above.

At Feb 24, 2008, 4:40:00 AM, Anonymous geoff said...

Thanks BBR... I remember shipp's slump last year. Hopefully he'll be able to get out of this one soon.
DB, I totally agree with you. The defense has its holes, especially against quick teams that can penetrate and kick out successfully. The offense is also starting to look a lot like it did last year, with a lot of horizontal passing and not enough penetration to the basket. There are so many things that we need to work on, and we should still be ranked 4th (at least) in the country on Monday. The team has looked great at times, hopefully we can get back to it and win a championship.


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